“The word is the canary, and its feathers are falling out.”
After an extended hiatus, Four Minutes to Midnight returns with our thirteenth issue, a lovingly produced edition of typography and poetics, photography and collage, design polemics and radical politics, paper and ink. Thematically, the issue emerges out of our experience of the Québec Student Strike, but is not specifically “about” it, acting more as a reflection on 10 years of community organising, designing and publishing, making music, and strolling through gentrifying neighbourhoods in opposition to neoliberal capitalism.
The issue features visual art, writing and design from a diverse host of local and international contributors, including the Dutch design studio Experimental Jetset, performance artist and author Jacob Wren, Montreal photographer Vo Thien Viet, Toronto writer and editor Hillary Rexe, and the Montreal artist and collagist Madame Gilles.
The long awaited (in my mind at least) thirteenth issue of Four Minutes to Midnight is in the final stages of production. The screen-printed covers have been delivered to the printers, Kata Soho, and they’ve just finished the interior printing on their end. Next steps; cutting down the sheets, collating the pages, binding, and trimming to the final book block. Exciting stuff!
I’ll be posting the details of the issue itself when it’s ready, but for now I wanted to share some in process images and announce the upcoming launch party. We’re excited to be launching the issue as part of the Howl Arts Festival, Tuesday, April 29th at le Cagibi, with musical performances by Loosestrife, Stefan Christoff and our own John “Triangles” Stuart. An inaugural festival of art and revolution seems to be the perfect context to bring this zine/book into the world, especially considering how Four Minutes to Midnight acted as a touchstone to Stefan and I forming the Howl Arts Collective all those years ago. This has been a very long time coming, so we’re hoping you can make it out to celebrate with us.
Things are coming along slowly, but surely, with the next issue (13) of Four Minutes to Midnight and I wanted to share some work in progress images. Alongside a much tighter conception of what we want to do with the issue, I’m very excited to announce that Howl Arts will be officially supporting the project with production and distribution. With this support, we’ve decided to print an offset run in colour for the first time ever! We also plan to engage the talents of local craft printers, and employ letterpress, silkscreen and risograph printing for covers and inserts.
For Expozine this year, John and I pulled together this small zine consisting of two hard-wrought poems. The poems were composed/written by us over the course of 4 days and nights, addressing our tried and true themes of love and loss, gentrification and war, isolation and community, solidarity and suicide.
Despite the short timeline (we were stapling and folding into the wee hours of Saturday morning), I’m really proud of these little poems and the elegantly restrained format and typography. The zine was published in a limited edition of 50 copies.
This year’s issue of Four Minutes to Midnight is dedicated to our favourite festival here in the city; Expozine, Montreal’s annual small press, comics, and zine fair. Celebrating it’s tenth anniversary this year, Expozine has always provided John and I with an amazing venue for us to showcase our work, and welcomed us into a lovely community of support and inspiration. Our seventh issue won the first ever Expozine award for Best English Zine (the first year I was back in Montreal), and since then we’ve been honoured to be a part of the festival, with me hopping on board the organising committee a couple of years back. The DIY ethic of the festival has always appealed to both the aesthetic and politics of 2356, and it has acted as the catalyst for many dear friendships and allies. Given all this, it only made sense that for their tenth birthday, we bake them a Four Minutes to Midnight zine-cake, complete with a gold-foil stamped cover.
The bilingual issue features interviews with Expozine co-founders Louis Rastelli and Billy Mavreas, long-time co-organiser Pascal Fioramore, two essays exploring the independent cultural scene in Montreal by Sebastian Hell and Stefan Christoff, and a 70+ page collage of selected works extracted from the thousands of zines collected in the Expozine archives. Given the immensity of the festival, our selection is obviously biased (ahem, curated…), reflecting themes of personal interest (eg. social anxiety, cats, sex/love, and revolution!). Still, one of my favorite parts of the issue is the near complete list that we compiled of the 1100+ exhibitors that have tabled at the event over the years (set in 5-point type).
As I was going through my archives tonight, I realised I had never properly posted about this small pamphlet we produced and distributed back in 2008. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the new directions I want to take the magazine in (and the 2356 project generally), and this is a telling touchstone from the past to some of these ideas.
The pamphlet is a transcript of the speech delivered by cultural critic Brian Holmes at the Democracy in America exhibition, presented by Creative Time in New York in 2008. In it he compellingly argues for artists to engage with the radical opportunities presented by the financial crisis. A message as relevant today as it was then.
I first met Brian as part of the Declarations of Interdependence and the Immediacy of Design conference at Concordia University almost ten years ago. It was a heady time for me, with a lot of thinking about the relationship between design, art and activism. As a decade since then rounds out, I find myself thinking deeply about this again, and the position I’m now in to enact those ideas. So, many thanks Brian, for inspiring me in the first place, and allowing us to publish this important work!
2009 marks four decades of me being a published poet
in this once greatest country so try and find any of my
books in your local bookstore and you’d be shit out of
luck yet if I had similarly wasted my life doing
almost anything else I could be retired by now with a
modest check and better teeth but all I’ve got to show
are consequential words across an empty white space
– Happy Hour’s epigraph
The eleventh issue of Four Minutes to Midnight is a radical break from the format of the last four issues, consisting of Happy Hour, a book of 60 poems by F.A. Nettelbeck, lavishly illustrated by Sophie Jodoin, and Fugue XI, printed and bound as a slim edition of 28 pages. Production details include a double bump of silver ink on black cardstock covers, bright pink endpapers and a hand stamped bellyband holding the books together. Interior pages are printed on Rolland Enviro100 paper (FSC 100% post-consumer fibre, chlorine free process using biogas energy). The double-issue is printed in an edition of 350 copies.
Four Minutes to Midnight issue 10 has just been reviewed by the reknowned design critic Kenneth Fitzgerald as part of his Chronological Survey. Kenneth has recently reviewed books by Stefan Sagmeister and Debbie Millman, and was a regular contributor to the late, great, Emigre magazine, so needless to say, I’m humbled by the company. I’m inspired and honoured by his critique, not (simply) because of the considered praise from someone I highly respect, but moreso by the depth of his analysis and the revelatory insights of his interpretation.
His understanding of what we’re trying to do with the zine is frighteningly accurate, to the point of spotting the genesis of this project in Steve Baker’s article from New Perspectives: Critical Histories of Graphic Design. Even I had forgotten about that! While studying at Post St. Joost in Breda, I found a stack of the three issue Visible Language series in an old locker, devoured the articles, and shortly thereafter began the process that led to FMTM as part of my MA thesis.
In reading Fitzgerald’s review, I’m reaffirmed that what we’re doing is relevant and has the possibility of genuinely connecting on an aesthetic and emotional level. I’m also challenged by his criticism of its stylistic codification and the danger of commodification. There’s much more work to be done.